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Wonderful Wednesdays: And Now for the Good News About Preservation

Are you shaking your head sadly again? You know, that doleful tut-tut about the sweet old building just torn down, or trusty independent business that closed its doors? Well, it’s time to take a break from all that, because there’s plenty of good news in our neighborhoods as well. Welcome to Wonderful Wednesdays.

We’d like to hear about positive things you’ve noticed, too. Send your observations from the sunny side of the street to kloew@gvshp.org.

Holy Cornice!

Can’t believe my eyes: Thursday August 9, 2014, 7 p.m.

A building around the corner from GVSHP at 87 Third Avenue had scaffolding up for renovation work for much of the past year. You stopped noticing after a while – until, in early August, something happened to make some of us passers-by literally stop in our tracks. I even took this picture. A cornice was being installed! It’s truly a crowning glory, especially in a time of too many buildings going without.

Indeed, this is such a welcome surprise that our friends at the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative just noted the development as well. According to LESPI, workers were “fastening steel substructure and ornate cladding to this century-old neo-Renaissance style building, which for decades had only bare walls here. … [R]estoration work … has now started on the neighboring ca. 1890 building that had also lost its cornice years ago. Both cornice designs are accurate replications based on archival photos, photos which originally helped to inspire the restoration project. … We want to heartily thank the building owner, architect Thomas Fenniman (who’s also known for the beautiful Church of St. Francis Xavier interior restoration on W. 16th Street), and Galicia Contracting for this wonderful architectural gift to the community.”  Bravo!

A newly handsome building on the northeast corner of 12th Street and Third Avenue.

Jazz Lives in Greenwich Village

Spike Wilner and Mitch Borden, owners of the essential jazz club Smalls, have done it again. Across Seventh Avenue they’ve just opened Mezzrow in the former Tanti Bacci Caffe space at 163 W. 10th Street. Billed as a place for duos, piano and bass in particular, the club – named for the late great clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow – looks to be a cozy spot for intimate listening. Thank God for that. And close by is the relatively new Whynot Jazz Room, below Whynot Coffee and Wine at 14 Christopher Street, another congenial place we’re happy is there. Add that to the ‘hood’s lovable long-lived bastions of music, from nooks like Caffe Vivaldi to granddaddies like the Village Vanguard, and it appears that jazz is alive and well in the Village. After all, following a scare, Arthur’s Tavern insists it’s not going anywhere.

Sometimes the Best Pizza Wins

Although $1 pizza had some novelty appeal when it first hit the cheap eats scene, all too quickly it became a scourge of higher-quality pie shops. East Villagers rallied behind First Avenue’s decade-long pizza provider Vinny Vincenz when the notorious 2 Bros. Pizza of St. Marks Place moved right next door. How rude! Vinny hit back with its own $1 slices – and the far tastier slice won.  2 Bros. closed this summer after less than one-and-a-half years in business at that location. (Alas, Joey Pepperoni is still offering $1 pizza just across the avenue.)

Hibachi Dumpling recently replaced 2 Bros. on First Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets.

Landlords Prefer Non-Chain Stores

Say what?? Here we thought that soon every storefront would be a Dunkin’ Donuts – the largest chain in NYC, with more than 500 outlets across the five boroughs. Until the city passes legislation to help even the playing field for independent business, or new zoning to limit chain stores, the outlook has been bleak. Except Crain’s reported last week that owners are now seeking “quirky” retail to generate interest in their properties. From the article:

Today, landlords increasingly seek to create a quirkier, less predictable mix of retail tenants, one that can bring more energy and help etch out a distinctive identity on what would otherwise be interchangeable strips. The shift comes at a crucial time, as several big landlords gear up to lease the millions of square feet of retail space scheduled to open in New York City in the next several years, everywhere from the World Trade Center to the outlet mall in Staten Island. Already those quests have yielded some odd winners, ranging from a simple grilled-cheese shop to a seller of handcrafted Moroccan tile.

… The idea is that the retail tenants can bring up the value of an entire building by making it a desirable place to live, work or shop.

While these landlords are speaking specifically to somewhat precious concepts in new, high-end retail properties – it’s a start.

A New Culture Club

Speaking of chains, how great is it that a sizable spot on lower Second Avenue did not become home to a drugstore or bank? Instead, it’s something totally unpredictable: the Exile Professional Gym, which teaches “street dance” to both adults and kids. If you want to learn to pop, lock, vogue, flex, or break, this is the place. Although many of the styles taught were developed in NYC, EXPG is a Japan-based franchise, and this is the first location in the U.S. That gives us lite feet!

This new dance center landed between Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken and The Cock.

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